Restored / Access
Keko Jackson
w/Sming Sming Books

May 21 – June 18, 2022
Opening May 21, 2022 6-9p

Book Available Here or at the gallery
Allensworth is the first town in California to be founded, financed, and governed exclusively by Black people. Established in 1908 as a symbol of freedom in the West, it is part of a long legacy of independent and autonomous communities created by revolutionaries and people who escaped enslavement. The town was started by Allen Allensworth, who was himself born into enslavement, and saw the land as an opportunity to live out his dreams and redistribute resources. In its early years, Allensworth achieved success and became self-sufficient, establishing a free public library and a cooperative economy among other initiatives. However, by 1915, a variety of causes including severe drought, racially motivated attacks, and the discovery of arsenic in the ground water ultimately led to the town's decline.

Restored/Access is a project that surveys this former settlement, which was slowly abandoned and left to collect dust before becoming a California State Park in 1974. With this approach in mind, we might compare the photographic excavation of Allensworth to the journey that the time-traveling Data Thief embarks upon in John Akomfrah’s film The Last Angel of History (1996). The film opens with the narrator standing on the edge of a flooded ruin that looks like the Salton Sea. He explains the Data Thief’s mission: “200 years into the future, the Data Thief is told a story. If you can find the crossroads, a crossroads, this crossroads—if you can make an archeological dig into this crossroads, you’ll find fragments, techno-fossils. And if you can put those elements, those fragments together, you’ll find the code. Crack that code, and you’ll have the keys to your future. You got one clue and it’s a phrase: mothership connection.” By collecting fragments and recovering the history of Allensworth, this project also seeks to crack the code and explore how the traces of an ambiguous utopia can inform present struggles and build futures.